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Celebrating Cinco de Mayo at Los Angeles' El Pueblo

Here’s a question: What is the reason we in the United States celebrate Cinco de Mayo? If your answer is to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, you’d be wrong. Mexican Independence Day is actually September 16th and Cinco de Mayo is the holiday that commemorates the Battle of Puebla, which took place in 1862 in the Mexican state for which it’s named. On the 5th of May, Mexican forces defeated French forces in an unlikely victory. 

So, we ask again, why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States?

“There is usually some confusion between Mexican Independence Day and Cinco de Mayo,” says John Kopczynski, public relations director for El Pueblo de Los Angeles, a public plaza and cultural center in the middle of the buzzing bustle of downtown LA. Kopczynski adds, “[That] victory is really about overcoming obstacles against all odds.” A day that fills many Mexicans with pride, we couldn't think of a better reason to raise our salted rims and drink margaritas guilt-free on a Monday.

This year, in addition to the traditional and ubiquitous Cinco de Mayo festivities such as mariachis and folklorico dancing, ice-cold margaritas and delicious eats, El Pueblo will also have an interactive history component to better educate the masses about the true meaning of the day. This is what El Pueblo does best – act as a conduit between the LA of present and its Latin roots.

Rusty on your Los Angeles history? You are not alone. The City of Angels was founded 233 years ago, on September 4, 1781, when 44 Mexican settlers – 11 husbands, 11 wives and a smattering of kids, all of mixed ethnic backgrounds – traveled up from San Diego, set up an outpost under the Spanish flag on El Rio de la Porciuncula, now known as the Los Angeles River.

Today, after two wars, two flag changes (first to Mexican, then to American), 19 freeways, eight major highways, three interstate highways, and countless earthquakes later, the City of Los Angeles has a population of 3.85 million people, half of them Latino. The present-day El Pueblo de Los Angeles, now a 44-acre park protected by Congress, acts as a window into not just the city’s Latin heritage, but also into many of the other ethnicities that have fused with Latinos to build up LA into California’s mega-tropolis.

A trapezoidal partition of downtown LA that borders other well-known sites such as City Hall, Chinatown, Union Station and Little Tokyo, El Pueblo also houses the city’s oldest cemetery (Campo Santo), house (Avila Adobe) and Catholic church (La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles).

Next, how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated today...

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